This blog reflects on life at work at comments on the latest news that shapes my 9-5 working day in a Corporate Communications consultancy.

About Me

I am a born and bred South African who has always loved to read and write. As a child my mother used to read to me and my siblings, from classics like the “Lord of the Rings” but later also from her own stories. She would write children’s stories and then use us as her test audience, but I loved to hear what she had written long after my siblings had tired of it. So I grew up in an environment of reading and writing, which inspired my love of these things. I hope to write a great book some day, and have learnt first hand the determination and will that it takes. My love of English inspired me to continue my study of it at university. I majored in Law and English in a BA degree at UCT where I found that I took to English much more than law. I enjoyed learning about South Africa’s history and the development of our liberal Constitution, which increasingly made me committed to the hope this country has for the future. Ideally, I’d like to find myself in a job where I am able to write; that allows a good mix of time spent with people and being able to work on my own.

Saturday, 05 May 2007

Speak up or you won't be heard

One of the big challenges facing our group and me in particular over the course of the WOW programme has been learning to speak up. Speaking loudly is just one of the aspects of learning to present ourselves to the world. In the first session that Roy Blumenthal had with us, he challenged us all to make a commitment to speak up and project our voices so that everyone in the room could hear what we had to say. The room unfortunately seems to swallow the sound of our voices into the buzz of the fans and the projector, sometimes making it a strain to hear everything. Roy’s tips were to sit up straight and breathe from our diaphragms, reminding us that people in the world of work weren’t going to have much time for us if they couldn’t hear what we said.

I remember a time in high school when my soft voice gave a negative impression of me right from the beginning. I went to audition for the Kwazulu-Natal Youth choir. I was particularly nervous and when the conductor introduced himself, my voice came out in a tiny sqeak. “Oo, I hope you don’t sing like you speak!” was his first comment.
His first impression was of my nervousness. Roy emphasised that small voices suggest that we are small people. A potential boss, like the choir master, most likely will think that how we speak is an indication of how we are going to perform- dealing with people and tasks in the workplace.

Speaking clearly and loudly is just one of the ways of presenting ourselves to the world.From the very first day on the course, most speakers have asked us to introduce ourselves and talk briefly about where we come from. Andrew Hofmeyr told us that Graham Codrington, today a successful professional, knocked on his door when he was first beginning his career and gave a presentation on himself. Interviews are about presenting who we are and selling ourselves as a valuable product. This course has helped me particularly to see the value of being able to speak confidently about myself and my goals. I have learnt that, if I can’t speak up for myself, no one will know who I am or give me the benefit of the doubt. If I don’t speak clearly, I won’t be heard.


Valentin said...

Dear Susan, you are right.
One of the essential elements of presentation skills is the ability to speak "loud". I have found out that very often speaking "loud" is associated with low confidence.
Usually, building up your confidence should be the first step you take in order to improve on your ability to speak loud.
As I said, speaking "soft" is often associated with a lack of confidence or any concerns you have that make you think you are weak, useless or you are just "nobody" (low "self-esteem").
I believe that again, it is just a matter of practice and experience. You need to work on it constantly in order to make significant progress.
However, sometimes, speaking "soft" is not just a result of low confidence. Then you should make the use of technology in order to facilitate yourself!
Do you think that personally you have improved on your ability to speak "loud" after the WOW training programme?
Has it really helped you?

Susan Arthur said...

Thanks for your comment Valentin. As I wrote about in a post yesterday, the WOW programme has really helped me to be aware of how my voice sounds to others and what this says about me. I've tried to make a concious effort to speak loudly in the course of the programme (though I know it didn't always work). The programme has also really helped to build my confidence about entering the work place.